The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo

This book has great promise. It is billed as "The heirs of Sherlock Holmes gather to solve the world's most perplexing cases." And they do solve them with a combination of great deductive reasoning skills, some artistic talent and some good old fashioned luck.

The book chronicles the story of the Vidocq Society, a group of men and women from all over the world and from a variety of professions. There are artists, police officers, pathologists, coroners, attorneys, and judges. Eugene Francois Vidocq was a scandal in France - a career criminal who went onto start what is widely considered to be the world's first detective agency.

The VSMs (Vidocq Society members) were originally Frank Bender, an artist who had an uncanny ability for facial reconstruction and creation of death masks, William Fleisher a police detective and Richard Walter a forensic psychologist. These three men gather, in Philadelphia to start investigating "cold cases." The first case was a decades old case of the "boy in the box."

They are very successful. From 1984 until the time of the book printing (2010), they had investigated more than 300 unsolved murders, solving 90% of them. They did it by simply taking a fresh look at the information the various police agencies had pieced together during the original investigations. The book chronicles the exploits of the group from their beginnings to the current time. It is relentless in it's descriptions of murders, crime scenes and snippets of the main investigators lives.

What the book does is bring the reader into the minds and patterns of thinking of the investigators. There is a very complete description of the descent into psychopathology of a serial killer. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is very graphic in parts. It also contains several pictures taken directly from police files.

I thought the book was interesting, although I was really ready to be done with murder and mayhem by the end of the book. It should also be pointed out that the conversation portions of the book feel contrived. Who really knows what a killer said to his victim 50 years ago? I would recommend it with a strong caution. If you like true crime and graphic descriptions this book is for you.

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